How Music Helps Learning

New research out of Northwestern University suggests that musical training, including piano lessons, may have powerful positive effects that go well beyond learning how to play scales.

Debate rages over how/whether musical training “crosses over” to help with non-music-related cognitive skills. New research out of Northwestern University suggests that musical training, including piano lessons, may have powerful positive effects that go well beyond learning how to play scales. Examination of the extent of the “neuroplasticity” of musicians suggests that music training can improve the brain’s ability to process emotions, learn languages, and understand/synthesize speech.

In high intensity music practice, the student leverages significant working memory. Researchers believe that this stimulus can actually lead to the growth of tissue in the brain. Furthermore, this growth of neural tissue improves other nonmusical tasks, such as listening for faint stimuli in noisy contexts and improving verbal and auditory attention.

There is certainly a kind of “domain specificity” at work – in other words, becoming a great musician won’t necessarily make you a brilliant physicist or highly coordinated athlete.

That being said, researchers have observed correlations between high musical achievement and high IQ/performance in diverse areas of life. Don’t get too carried away, though! Correlations can only suggest relationships. For instance, say you find examples of people who are amazing musicians and amazing math students. You could argue that music training made these students excellent at math; or, you could say that these students were just genetically gifted and thus they had a knack for learning both music and mathematics.

The Takeaway

Neuroscience is a young field, but there is reason to be optimistic that music lessons might have positive crossover effects on learning in other subjects. But regardless of the extra benefits that musical training may offer, mastering an instrument and sharing the joy of song is its own reward.

Whether you’re thinking about teaching your enthusiastic 7-year-old how to play the piano or you’re rekindling your own love of the instrument, the team here at Pianos Plus wants to help you find the perfect piano.

Connect with our team online, stop by our Bay Area store, or visit us on the web here at for free, thorough, and friendly help with your needs.